A. 508 Standards: Covered Electronic Content

The NPRM delineated specific types of electronic content that Federal agencies would need to make accessible consistent with the technical requirements of the proposed rule. As explained in the NPRM, the Board proposed these provisions to further clarify the requirement in the existing 508 Standards that Federal agencies make electronic information and data accessible to employees and members of the public. NPRM, 80 FR 10880, 10893 (Feb. 27, 2015). The Board noted confusion over what type of content was covered under the broad language of the existing 508 Standards, and the difficulty that Federal agencies displayed in effectively meeting their obligations to provide accessible electronic content. Id.

The NPRM specifically proposed that two discrete groups of content be covered by the refresh of the 508 Standards. First, in proposed E205.2, the Board proposed that all public-facing content comply with applicable technical requirements for accessibility. Public-facing content refers to electronic information and data that a Federal agency makes available directly to the general public. NPRM, 80 FR at 10893. The requirement to make accessible public-facing content is discussed below in Section IV.B. (Summary of Comments and Responses on Other Aspects of the Proposed Rule – 508 Chapter 2: Scoping Requirements – E205.4) of this preamble. Second, in proposed E205.3, the Board proposed that non-public-facing electronic content covered by the 508 Standards be limited to the following eight categories of official agency communications: (1) emergency notifications; (2) initial or final decisions adjudicating an administrative claim or proceeding; (3) internal or external program or policy announcements; (4) notices of benefits, program eligibility, employment opportunity, or personnel action; (5) formal acknowledgements of receipt; (6) survey questionnaires; (7) templates and forms; and (8) educational and training materials.

We sought comment in the NPRM on whether the proposed eight categories of non-public-facing content were sufficiently clear, and whether they provided sufficient accessibility without unnecessarily burdening agencies. Id. at 10894. The Board further requested comment on whether a ninth category for “widely disseminated” electronic content should be included in the final rule. Id.

Nine commenters responded to the proposed provision regarding non-public-facing electronic content (proposed E205.3). Commenters included two Federal agencies, one state/local agency, one disability advocacy organization, one accessible ICT services provider, two ICT subject matter experts, and two individuals.

In general, commenters agreed with the proposed approach requiring that only certain categories of non-public-facing content be made accessible, and most commenters found the categories to be sufficiently clear. One commenter, a state/local agency, objected to the Access Board’s statement in the preamble of the NPRM that only “final electronic documents that are ready for distribution” would be subject to accessibility requirements under proposed E205.3, and indicated that documents in all stages of preparation should be covered. NPRM, 80 FR at 10894. Another commenter, an ICT subject matter expert, requested clarification of the internal and external program and policy announcements category and suggested including an additional category for announcements sent to all employees. An accessible ICT services provider was the only commenter to object to the eight categories, finding them too confusing and too difficult to implement. That commenter preferred that the requirement for accessibility of non-public-facing content be tied to the extent of the content’s distribution, and suggested that any document distributed to 50 or more individuals be made accessible.

Three other commenters responded to the NPRM’s question five as to whether a “widely disseminated” category should be added. Id. at 10895. One Federal agency opposed inclusion of this category, asserting that it would cause confusion. One ICT subject matter expert and one Federal agency generally liked the idea of such a category, but acknowledged that definitional challenges would make it difficult to implement.

The Federal agency supporting inclusion of the “widely disseminated” category indicated that the eight proposed categories would not sufficiently encompass the internal Web pages available to employees, and suggested that the problem could be solved with the addition of a ninth category for internal Web pages. This commenter asserted that without such a category for internal Web pages, agencies would need to develop systems to categorize internal Web page content, ensure that employees with disabilities could navigate to the covered content, and find a way to create an integrated accessible experience across internal Web sites where some content is accessible and some is not.

Upon careful consideration of the comments, we have decided to retain the proposed eight categories in the final rule and have added a ninth category for intranet content, as described below. Most commenters concurred with the proposed approach providing categories for non-public-facing content, and indicated that the categories were clearly described. The Board, therefore, finds no reason to alter the eight proposed categories, and has retained them, as proposed, in the final rule. However, the Board did not intend for the use of these categories to exclude some intranet content; all intranet content is currently covered under the existing 508 Standards. 36 CFR §1194.22 (providing technical requirements for “[W]eb-based intranet … information and applications”). Therefore, in the final rule, the Board has added a ninth category to final E205.3, requiring that “intranet content designed as a Web page” also conform to accessibility requirements to ensure that the final rule does not inadvertently result in a reduction in accessible intranet content. The Board agrees with commenters that a “widely disseminated” standard would be difficult to define and implement in a consistent manner across agencies, and would likely cause confusion. The Board thus declines to add such a category to the final rule.

B. Application of WCAG 2.0 to Non-Web ICT

The NPRM proposed to apply WCAG 2.0 equally to both Web and non-Web documents and software. NPRM, 80 FR at 10880. A discussion of the scoping of these requirements under the Revised 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines can be found below in Section IV.B (Summary of Comments and Responses on Other Aspects of the Proposed Rule –508 Chapter 2: Scoping Requirements) and Section IV.D (Summary of Comments and Responses on Other Aspects of the Proposed Rule – 255 Chapter 2: Scoping Requirements). In the NPRM preamble, we explained that applying WCAG 2.0 “outside the Web browser environment not only ensures greater accessibility for persons with disabilities, but also minimizes the incremental burden on regulated entities by simplifying compliance through incorporation of a technologically neutral consensus standard.” Id. at 10895.

Since the establishment of the TEITAC Advisory Committee, the general consensus has been that the success criteria in WCAG 2.0 provided sufficient requirements to address the accessibility of non-Web documents and non-Web software applications. Id. In the TEITAC Report and the 2010 ANPRM, the Board restated and recast each WCAG 2.0 success criterion using phrasing appropriate for non-Web documents and software. 2010 ANPRM, 75 FR at 13457.

In response to concerns raised by commenters, in the 2011 ANPRM the Board proposed to incorporate by reference WCAG 2.0 and proposed a direct reference to WCAG 2.0 for non-Web content and software, instead of rewriting each criterion. 2011 ANPRM, 76 FR at 76640. This approach stimulated the formation of an industry ad hoc working group aimed at determining the practicality of using WCAG 2.0 for this purpose. This working group analyzed each WCAG 2.0 Success Criterion to determine its suitability for application to non-Web documents and software. W3C® Web Accessibility Initiative, W3C® Working Group Note – Guidance on Applying WCAG 2.0 to Non-Web Information and Communications Technologies (Sept. 5, 2013), https://www.w3.org/TR/wcag2ict/.

The working group determined that of the 38 Level A and Level AA Success Criteria in WCAG 2.0, 26 do not include Web-related terminology that would cause the reader to question whether they are applicable to non-Web documents and non-Web software. Id. Therefore, these Success Criteria can be applied directly as written to non-Web documents and software. Of the remaining 12 Success Criteria, the working group found that 8 could be applied as written if certain Web-specific terms or phrases, e.g., “Web page” are replaced with non-Web-specific terms or phrases, e.g., “non-Web documents” and “non-Web software.” Id. The remaining four Success Criteria posed problems in being applied to non-Web content because they refer to “sets of Web pages.” Id. Applying these four criterion to non-Web documents and software would require interpretation that could inadvertently change the meaning of the requirements. Id. In their report, the working group concluded that circumstances in which those four Success Criteria could be applied outside the context of Web content would be “extremely rare.” Id.

Relying on the working group’s findings, in the NPRM the Board proposed to directly apply WCAG 2.0 to all non-Web documents and software. NPRM, 80 FR at 10895. Sixteen commenters responded to the proposal of applying WCAG 2.0 to non-Web content. Six commenters (five ICT companies and trade associations, and an ICT subject matter expert) strongly advocated for returning to the previous approach of reprinting three variants of WCAG 2.0 in the 508 Standards and rewriting the requirements with non-Web specific terminology. These commenters asserted that agencies would not be able to consistently apply the WCAG 2.0 success criteria to non-Web documents without separate chapters. They were also concerned that by incorporating WCAG 2.0 by reference, conformity assessment would become a single check-off item in that agencies would not ensure compliance with each success criteria unless they were specifically laid out in the regulatory text. Ten commenters (four disability advocacy organizations, three academics, two individuals, and one ICT company) generally supported applying WCAG 2.0 to non-Web content. One of these commenters explained that referencing WCAG 2.0 as a whole is not problematic because as a single standard, one must comply with all of the provisions to comply with the standard. This commenter explained that there is much overlap between Web and non-Web content, for example an eBook is a document that also has Web components, software, and media. This incorporation of WCAG 2.0 for non-Web content as well as Web content allows the user to evaluate all content with one standard.

Based on the comments received and the findings of the working group, we have decided that agencies are better served by 508 Standards that incorporate WCAG 2.0 by reference than they would be if the final rule were to contain three different versions of WCAG 2.0 for Web content, non-Web documents, and non-Web software. The value of a single standard cannot be underestimated. We attempted to restate the WCAG 2.0 criteria in the 2010 ANPRM, and the approach was widely criticized by commenters. Therefore, in the final rule we retain the approach proposed in the NPRM of incorporating by reference WCAG 2.0 for non-Web documents and non-Web software.

To address concerns expressed by some commenters and the working group regarding the application of a few WCAG 2.0 Success Criteria to non-Web documents and non-Web software, in the final rule we have excepted non-Web documents and non-Web software from compliance with these criteria. Specifically, non-Web documents and non-Web software need not comply with WCAG 2.0 Success Criteria 2.4.1 Bypass Blocks, 2.4.5 Multiple Ways, 3.2.3 Consistent Navigation, and 3.2.4 Consistent Identification. Additionally, we added new provisions to instruct the reader when applying WCAG 2.0 to non-Web documents and non-Web software to replace the term “Web page” with the term “document” or “software.” We added this exception and new provisions where applicable throughout the final rule text. (E205.4, E205.2.1, E207.2, E207.2.1, C203.1, C203.2.1, C205.2, 501.1, 504.2, 504.3, 504.4, and 602.3).

C. Incorporation by Reference of PDF/UA-1

The NPRM proposed to incorporate by reference (IBR) PDF/UA-1 and allow compliance with this standard as an alternative to compliance with WCAG 2.0. This proposal was in response to commenters to the 2010 and 2011 ANPRMs that asserted that PDF/UA-1 was an international accessibility standard intended for developers using PDF writing and processing software. These commenters asserted that the use of PDF/UA-1 would provide definitive terms and requirements for accessibility in PDF documents and applications that generate PDFs. The Board was persuaded by these comments and proposed to incorporate PDF/UA-1 by reference in the NPRM (proposed E102.6 and C102.6). The Board included it as an alternative to compliance with WCAG 2.0 for electronic content and support documentation for both the 508 Standards and the 255 Guidelines (proposed E205.4, C203.1, and 602.3). By including alternative compliance with PDF/UA-1, the Board intended to give agencies flexibility in meeting accessibility requirements for PDFs. This approach assumed that PDF/UA-1 was fully sufficient to meet the accessibility requirements of PDF users with disabilities.

Ten commenters addressed the proposal to allow conformance with PDF/UA-1 as an alternative to WCAG 2.0. Three commenters, two ICT companies and one accessible ICT services provider, explained that the PDF/UA-1 standard has limitations and does not include requirements for contrast, embedded videos, captioning, or other related requirements for the accessibility of multimedia. These commenters recommended requiring conformance with provisions of WCAG 2.0 in addition to compliance with PDF/UA-1, to ensure that PDF documents are fully accessible. Four commenters (one Federal agency and three ICT companies and trade associations) also noted the shortcomings of PDF/UA-1 as an alternative to WCAG 2.0 conformance and recommended removing the proposed alternative from the final rule. These commenters recommended that the Board instead indicate in an advisory that use of PDF/UA-1 is a method of achieving conformance to WCAG 2.0. The Federal agency commenter explained that the PDF/UA-1 standard is copyrighted, expensive, and the format is not easy for subject matter experts to work with. Additionally, this commenter explained that the WCAG 2.0 guidelines are sufficient to communicate accessibility conformance. The remaining commenters (two individuals and a disability advocacy organization) recommended clarification of the application of the proposed standard to non-Web documents and asserted a preference for requiring HTML documents instead of accessible PDFs, noting that accessible PDFs are not as useful as HTML documents.

The Board is persuaded by the majority of commenters that PDF/UA-1 should not serve as a referenced accessibility standard for electronic content and support documentation in the final rule. The intent of the proposed IBR of PDF/UA-1 in the NPRM was to make conformance assessment of PDF documents easier, assuming that, in the future, PDF/UA-1 would become widely adopted. WCAG 2.0 strongly informed the development of PDF/UA-1. With the exception of the contrast requirement, PDF/UA-1 includes most accessibility requirements relevant to the PDF format, including textual equivalence for static graphical elements. However, PDF/UA-1 does not address scripting or the use of PDF files as a container for video. Therefore, the end user would still have to reference WCAG 2.0 for some requirements to ensure that a PDF file is fully accessible. Because WCAG 2.0 can be used as a sole standard for PDF compliance, and PDF/UA-1 cannot, the Board finds WCAG 2.0 to be appropriate as the sole standard for PDF files. Therefore, in the final rule, we have removed the reference to PDF/UA-1 from E205.4, C203.1, and 602.3. It is important to note, however, that even without this reference, PDF/UA-1 can still be useful to agencies conducting assessments of PDF files to ensure WCAG 2.0 conformance.

Although we have decided not to include PDF/UA-1 in the final rule as an alternate conformance standard for PDF, we have determined that PDF/UA-1 remains an appropriate standard for authoring tools. Therefore, in the final rule, we added a new provision expressly specifying that authoring tools capable of exporting PDF files must conform to PDF 1.7 (the current standard for PDF, also referred to as ISO 32000-1) and be capable of exporting PDF files that conform to PDF/UA-1 (final 504.2.2). This provision is discussed in more detail in Section IV. (Summary of Comments and Responses on Other Aspects of the Proposed Rule).

D. Real-Time Text

The NPRM proposed to require that ICT providing real-time voice communication support real-time text (RTT) functionality and ensure the compatibility of multiline displays and features capable of text generation. (proposed 410.6). More importantly, the NPRM sought to ensure the interoperability of RTT across platforms. To accomplish this goal, the NPRM proposed to incorporate by reference specific standards for RTT interoperability in certain environments typically used in the United States (proposed E102.5, E102.8.1, C102.5, and C102.8.1). The NPRM proposed that when ICT interoperates with Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) products or systems using Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), the transmission of RTT must conform to the Internet Engineering Task Force’s RFC 4103 standard for RTP Payload for Text Conversation. Where ICT interoperates with the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), RTT would be required to conform to the Telecommunications Industry Association’s TIA 825-A standard for TTY signals at the PSTN interface (also known as Baudot).

In developing the proposed rule, the Board took note of the approach to RTT in the EN 301 549 Standard. Section 6.2 of EN 301 549, entitled “Real-time text (RTT) functionality,” addresses ICT with two-way voice communication. Section 6.2.3, entitled “Interoperability,” lists five different standards for RTT operating in three different environments: the publicly switched telephone network; VoIP using SIP; and other ICT using RTT conforming to the IP Multimedia Sub-System (IMS) set of protocols specified in section 6.2.3(c). A sixth standard was proposed in section 6.2.3(d) for ICT operating in an unspecified environment, specifically that ICT is permitted to interoperate with “a relevant and applicable common specification for RTT exchange that is published and available.”

In the preamble to the NPRM, we asked nine questions about text-based communications and the different standards the Board was considering incorporating. NPRM, 80 FR at 10880, questions 1–2, 8–13 and 36. Seven of the questions addressed RTT functionality and standards, and two of the questions sought information on costs. Seventeen commenters responded to the topic of RTT. While most of these commenters acknowledged the importance of RTT as a replacement for outdated Text Telephone (TTY) technology, there was minor disagreement from industry trade associations about whether RTT technology was sufficiently mature for deployment to replace TTYs. Most commenters from industry, academia, and disability rights organizations agreed that RTT could be deployed, but disagreed about which standard to use for RTT operating in different systems. ICT manufacturers and ICT industry associations urged the Board not to adopt any specific standard for RTT, requesting that the final rule leave open the ability to use some future technology that may provide better functionality than existing environments. In response to the Board’s questions in the NPRM, several commenters supported broad deployment of RTT at all times, both in the Federal sector and in the private marketplace; however, one ICT industry commenter questioned the need or demand for the technology. In response to our questions on cost, commenters from the ICT industry stated that RTT would not be cost-effective and would limit manufacturers flexibility. On the other hand, commenters from academia, research entities, and disability rights organizations described the benefits resulting from the implementation of RTT and the inherent cost savings in decreased use of relay services mandated under the ADA.

In April 2016, during the pendency of the Access Board’s ICT rulemaking, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FCC NPRM) seeking comment on proposals to replace the FCC rules requiring support for TTY technology with rules requiring support for RTT technology. See Transition from TTY to Real-Time Text Technology; Proposed Rule, 81 FR 33170 (proposed May 25, 2016); see also FCC, Transition from TTY to Real-Time Text Technology; Petition for Rulemaking to Update the Commission’s Rules for Access to Support the Transition from TTY to Real-Time Text Technology, and Petition for Waiver of Rules Requiring Support of TTY Technology, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, CG Docket No. 16-145, GN Docket No. 15-178, FCC 16-53 (released Apr. 29, 2016), available at https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-16-53A1.pdf. As discussed above in Section I.A. (Executive Summary – Purpose and Legal Authority), the FCC is responsible for enforcing Section 255 and issuing implementing regulations; it is not bound to adopt the Access Board’s guidelines as its own or to use them as minimum requirements. As the FCC had issued a notice of its intent to regulate in this area, the Board determined that it would reserve the issue of RTT in the final rule to be addressed in a future rulemaking.

In December 2016, shortly before publication of this final rule, the FCC issued a report and order establishing rules to facilitate telecommunication service providers’ transition from TTY to RTT. See FCC, Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, CG Docket No. 16-145; GN Docket No. 15-178, FCC 16-169 (released Dec. 16, 2016) (hereafter, “FCC RTT Order”), available at https://www.fcc.gov/document/adoption-real-time-text-rtt-rules. The FCC RTT Order establishes, among other things, requirements that: facilitate telecommunications service providers’ transition from TTY technology to RTT technology that permits simultaneous voice and text on the same call using the same device; achieve interoperability adhering to RFC 4103 as a safe harbor standard; provide backwards compatibility with TTYs for a specified period; and support RTT transmissions to 911 call centers and telecommunications relay centers. Id. The FCC RTT Order also incorporates a notice seeking input on the integration of these services into telecommunications relay services, and on the possible addition of RTT features for people with cognitive disabilities and people who are deaf-blind. Id. The Access Board continues to monitor these proceedings and will update the 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines as appropriate.

E. Functional Performance Criteria

1. Limited Vision and Limited Hearing

The NPRM proposed to revise the existing functional performance criteria (FPC) for users with limited vision. The NPRM proposed that where technology provides a visual mode of operation, it must provide one mode of operation that magnifies, one mode that reduces the field of vision, and one mode that allows user control of contrast. As explained in the NPRM, the proposed FPC for limited vision was a significant departure from the FPC for limited vision in the existing 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines, which focused on accommodating a specific visual acuity.2 NPRM, 80 FR 10880, 10898 (Feb. 27, 2015).

In proposed 302.2, the Board replaced the visual acuity thresholds with requirements for magnification, reduction of field of vision, and user control of contrast to provide criteria that would address a range of limited vision disabilities. NPRM, 80 FR at 10898 (noting that commenters to the 2010 and 2011 ANPRMs recommended that the FPC include features that would address accessibility for users with limited vision). The Board took a similar approach to the FPC for limited hearing (proposed 302.5), proposing that where technology provides an auditory mode of operation, it must provide at least one mode that improves clarity, one mode that reduces background noise, and one mode that allows user control of volume. Id. at 10944.

We sought comment in the NPRM with respect to the proposed FPC for limited vision. Id. at 10913. In question 17 the Board asked whether the requirements for magnification, reduction of field of vision, and user control of contrast should be more specific. Id. The Board further requested that commenters provide a scientific basis for any recommended thresholds. Id. The Board received 11 comments on the proposed FPC for limited vision (proposed 302.2), including comments from three ICT companies, three ICT trade associations, an accessible ICT services provider, a state/local government, an ICT subject matter expert, an individual, and a coalition of disability rights organizations.

The individual commenter and the ICT subject matter expert generally concurred with proposed 302.2, but did suggest possible improvements. The individual commenter suggested adding a “control of color” criteria so that users could choose a black background with white text. The ICT subject matter expert asserted that the Board should include specific thresholds for the criteria, but did not provide suggestions for specific thresholds supported by research or data. The state/local government indicated that the proposed FPC did not adequately address the needs of people with limited vision, but did not offer specific suggestions for improving the provision.

The coalition of disability rights organizations appreciated the Board’s effort with respect to the limited vision FPC, but felt that the proposed provision missed the mark. The group pointed out that the proposed provision assumed a lack of accessibility, and without a baseline, could result in unnecessary magnification of content that is already sufficiently large, or reduction of a field of vision that is already sufficiently small for limited vision users. The group suggested that the Board alter the provision to require one mode readable by a user with 20/40 vision acuity, one mode that is usable with a 10-degree field of vision, and one mode that provides high contrast.

The ICT companies and trade associations asserted that the proposed FPC for limited vision was too prescriptive, and was inconsistent with the level of specificity contained in the proposed FPCs for other disabilities. These commenters further noted that the FPC for limited vision imposed criteria not required by the technical requirements. In addition, the ICT companies expressed concern that mandating specific criteria in the FPC would stifle innovation. One ICT company described how certain products could provide accessibility for people with limited vision without meeting the proposed criteria. Some industry commenters noted that the proposed limited vision FPC was not technology-neutral and pointed to EN 301 549 as a more useful model. These industry commenters noted that EN 301 549 allows manufacturers the flexibility to include the limited vision accessibility features that are most applicable to a particular type of technology. EN 301 549 clause 4.2.2. ICT industry commenters further noted the benefits to manufacturers of harmonizing with international standards.

Upon consideration of the comments regarding proposed 302.2, the Board agrees that the proposed language of the limited vision FPC is too prescriptive and risks ineffective implementation in the absence of specific baselines for the proposed criteria. The Board is persuaded that the technology-neutral approach advanced throughout this refresh of the 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines is equally appropriate with respect to the FPC. The Board thus finds that harmonization with the language of EN 301 549 is a reasonable approach to the limited vision FPC, and adopts this suggestion for the language of 302.2 in the final rule. Therefore, we have revised final 302.2 to require ICT that provides a visual mode of operation also provide “at least one visual mode of operation that enables users to make better use of their limited vision.”

The proposed rule included a proposed FPC for limited hearing that closely mirrored the structure of the proposed limited vision FPC. In proposed 302.5, the Board proposed a limited hearing FPC that would have required ICT that provides an auditory mode of operation to also provide at least one mode of operation that improves clarity, one mode that reduces background noise, and one mode that allows user control of volume. ICT industry commenters, and a coalition of disability rights organizations, responded with the same issues that they presented with respect to the proposed limited vision FPC. Specifically, they posited that the proposed limited hearing FPC would not necessarily provide a better functional experience for users with limited hearing. An accessible ICT services provider, as well as an ICT trade association and two ICT companies, noted that the requirements for reduction of background noise and improvement of clarity would be difficult to define, measure, and achieve. As with the proposed FPC for limited vision, ICT industry commenters indicated that harmonization with the language of EN 301 549 would be technology-neutral and would give manufacturers the flexibility to develop accessibility features appropriate for their specific technology. EN 301 549 clause 4.2.5.

Upon consideration of the comments, and in the interest of creating a consistent regulatory structure with respect to all of the FPC in the final rule, the Board agrees that harmonization with the international standard is appropriate for the limited hearing FPC. Therefore, in the final rule, we have revised 302.5 to require that where ICT has an audible mode of operation, it must include “at least one mode of operation that enables users to make use of limited hearing.”

2. Limited Cognitive Abilities

The existing 255 Guidelines contain a FPC that expressly addresses operability of ICT by persons with cognitive, language, and learning disabilities. 36 CFR §1993.41(i) (requiring that ICT operate in “at least one mode that minimizes the cognitive, memory, language, and learning skills required of the user.”). The existing 508 Standards do not include a comparable provision. 36 CFR §1194.31 (listing six FPC, none of which address limited cognition). During its review, the TEITAC Advisory Committee recommended eliminating this requirement citing a lack of common standards or testable metrics. NPRM, 80 FR at 10910. The TEITAC Advisory Committee suggested that the Board eliminate the limited cognition FPC until more research could be done. Id. The Board thus did not include the provision in the 2010 and 2011 ANPRMs. Id. After considering comments received in response to the ANPRMs, the Board concurred that more research was needed before it could propose a meaningful FPC for limited cognitive ability. Id. Therefore, in the NPRM, we did not propose to include an FPC for limited cognition in the Revised 508 Standards or Revised 255 Guidelines. Id.

A total of 11 commenters addressed the NPRM’s failure to include provisions specifically addressing ICT operability by persons with cognitive, language, or learning disabilities. These commenters included four individuals who identified themselves as either having a learning or cognitive disability, or having a family member with a learning or cognitive disability, one accessibility ICT services provider, one ICT subject matter expert, four disability advocacy organizations, and a coalition of disability rights organizations.

The overarching sentiment that the commenters expressed was that the proposed rule marginalized cognitive, language, and learning disabilities. Disability advocacy organizations, as well as individual commenters, provided general background information on the incidence of cognitive, language, and learning disabilities in the United States. They noted the significant portion of the United States population that is affected by a cognitive disability, and further noted that the incidence of cognitive disability in the United States is growing as the population ages. Individual commenters described challenges using ICT that they or their family members face as a result of their cognitive disabilities.

Five commenters (including disability advocacy organizations, an ICT subject matter expert, an accessible ICT services provider, and a coalition of disability rights organizations) criticized the Board for not including an FPC expressly directed to the needs of individuals with cognitive or learning disabilities. These commenters urged inclusion of a new provision in the final rule similar to § 1193.41(i) of the existing 255 Guidelines. Some of these commenters noted that while the Access Board’s proposed revision of the 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines was silent on cognitive accessibility, the European ICT accessibility standard, EN 301 549, addresses cognitive accessibility and provides adjustable timing, error indication and suggestion, and logical focus order as examples of relevant design features for people with cognitive disabilities. EN 301 549 clause 4.2.10.

One individual commenter suggested that the Board rewrite proposed Chapter 3 to model all FPC on the underlying accessibility principles of WCAG 2.0. W3C®, An Introduction to Understanding WCAG 2.0, (Mar. 17, 2016), https://www.w3.org/TR/UNDERSTANDING-WCAG20/intro.html. The commenter suggested that by eliminating references to specific disabilities, the FPC should equally address all disabilities, including cognitive disabilities.

After careful consideration of the comments, we are persuaded that the final rule should include an FPC for limited cognitive abilities. In light of the significant portion of the United States population that has cognitive, language, or learning disabilities, the Board finds that it would be inappropriate to exclude the needs of this population from the Revised 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines. U.S. Census, Sex By Age By Cognitive Difficulty, 2010-2014 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_14_5YR_B18104&prodType=table (last visited on Aug. 8, 2016) (estimating that in 2014 almost 5 percent of the civilian non-institutionalized U.S. population 5 years old and older had a cognitive disability). The existing 255 Guidelines contain an FPC for limited cognition. While evaluation of accessibility under this existing provision has posed some challenges, the Board nonetheless concludes that, given the significant population of Americans with limited cognitive, language, or learning abilities, it is important and appropriate to include an FPC addressing their accessibility needs in Chapter 3—which applies under both the Revised 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines. Moreover, in an effort to maintain a consistent regulatory structure for the FPC in the final rule, the language for this FPC in the final rule seeks to harmonize with the FPC for limited cognition in EN 301 549. Therefore, in the final rule, we have added a new section 302.9, which requires that ICT provide “features making its use by individuals with limited cognitive, language, and learning abilities simpler and easier.”